'Gimme Shelter' filmmaker dies at 72

Sunday, February 1, 2004

Charlotte Zwerin, who was in the vanguard of American documentary filmmaking for four decades as an editor and director and who collaborated with David and Albert Maysles on the landmark "Gimme Shelter," has died. She was 72.

Zwerin, whose documentaries frequently focused on visual artists and jazz legends, died of lung cancer Jan. 22 at her home in New York City.

Zwerin's talent for structuring narratives in the editing room earned her a co-director credit after she edited the Maysleses' documentaries "Meet Marlon Brando" and "A Visit With Truman Capote" (both 1966).

"When it comes to editing documentary material, she was the best by far," Albert Maysles said.

Zwerin's most notable collaborations with the Maysles brothers as co-director were "Salesman" (1969), a feature-length chronicle about four Boston-based door-to-door Bible salesmen; and "Gimme Shelter" (1970), a documentary on the Rolling Stones' 1969 American tour.

The tour ended with the Stones' notorious free concert at Altamont Speedway in Livermore, Calif., where members of the Hells Angels, serving as security guards, brawled with fans in the crowd of 300,000 and stabbed a teenager to death after the youth charged the stage with a gun.

After learning that the Rolling Stones wanted to view footage of the concert, Zwerin suggested to the Maysleses that they film the Stones' reactions to what they were viewing in the editing room and use that sequence as a structuring device for the documentary.